In a chaotic Grand Prix which some would call a ‘mess’ , Here’s what made rounds behind the scenes,,,
Sauber– We arrived on Tuesday with the news of Monisha Kaltenborn’s departure making the rounds, which was eventually confirmed by the team on Thursday. However, why did the first female team principal in F1 quit? Some say it was a boardroom coup, but the reason is probably Pascal Wehrlein. Ever since Marcus Ericsson’s financers Longbow Finance started taking more control of the team, one has seen Felipe Nasr cribbing of a bad car and this year it is Pascal cribbing of a unstable rear. Although the German has been seen outperforming his swede team-mate, it hasn’t gone too well with Sauber’s primary Swedish financers. For the German Mercedes junior Monisha nurtured the driver in her team after Manor racing shut down. However, all wasn’t well when Marcus’ Swedish backers wanted him to have the winning car. If grapevine is to be believed then the obvious rumour doing the rounds was its high time she left, she wasn’t doing well enough. But the real answer is Pascal, where after a point she could not carry on doing what the Swedes wanted, manipulating Pascal’s car. Caught amidst this circus have been Toto Wolff and Mercedes who are going to protect the junior. Who will replace Monisha? Toto Wolf’s dear friend and former Renault boss, Frederic Vasseur is the obvious choice. Monisha’s exit from Sauber might be for good, but she might come back to F1 in a different role as per sources close other. From what I was told, nothing is permanent in F1 so I won’t be the only Indian female in the F1 paddock for too long.
Renault – Robert Kubica’s test with Renault has lead to a few tongues wagging suggesting a possible return for the Pole to Formula 1. Cyril Abiteboul has made a statement that Jolyon Palmer will have to work harder or perform better to retain his seat for next year. From where we understand it, Kubica will be seen doing a few FP1 sessions this season, maybe post summer-break, but Palmer’s stint in F1 is close to done according to some in the paddock. But Renault’s second seat has a lot of contenders including Sergie Sirotkin and Fernando Alonso. Hopefully by the Hungarian GP one should be certain where things stand. As far as their engine this season goes, they have come with a better engine which is helping Red Bull at the Baku circuit. However, they will be introducing a further update with a Q3 power mode for it very soon.
Mercedes: Why hasn’t Mercedes extended Valterri’s contract yet for 2018 and beyond? Lewis seems happy with the Finn as his team-mate. Last year Sebastian Vettel is supposed to have done a ‘gentleman deal’ or a hand-shake when he was threatening to quit Ferrari, and also because his Ferrari contract is due for renewal for next year. On the other hand, Sebastian will probably take that call post summer break, which means Valterri’s contract extension will be only announced post summer break, clearly indicating that the Silver Arrows outfit await the German’s decision. But the question is can Lewis allow Sebastian as his team-mate? He can block a non-german driver but not Sebastian. Therefore it will be interesting to see how the musical chairs for the 2018 driver market play out.
Fernando Alonso: The magician awaits his opportunity to win again and his frustrations pile at McLaren with the Honda engine woes. So what happens to the double champion in 2018? Flavio Briatore was seen at the Mercedes hospitality, while his manager Luis Garcia Abad was seen chatting with Alain Prost and Cyril Abiteboul at the Renault team hospitality. Well the Renault negotiations have been on since the Bahrain GP, while Briatore at Mercedes indicates them throwing the dice further to apply to as many options available, since Valterri’s contract is still not announced. However, Fernando’s fate with Mercedes will remain hanging till Sebastian takes a call as mentioned above. When it comes to the Spaniard and McLaren, if the Mercedes engine power unit deal comes through for the Woking based outfit, it won’t be surprising to see Fernando sticking it out with them.
McLaren: As a dear friend from Sky Sports, Craig Slater terms it ‘The Hoxit’ (Honda’s exit from McLaren), is being seen as sure possibility for next year. While Williams and Force India might not welcome the deal, as McLaren slipping down in performance is the very reason they are up in fourth or fifth. But that doesn’t stop the board at the Mercedes engines department form wanting to supply another team. According Toto he is not getting involved in the McLaren-Honda divorce or ‘Hoxit’ but they are going to need a sure answer from McLaren soon to know the number of Power Units and supply train that need to be produced for the following year. Given the fact that dead-line is near, one can expect an announcement from the Woking squad very soon, which will lead to a rippled effect with Alonso’s decision, the driver market, etc.
Force India – At a session on Friday with Otmar Szafauneur, we asked him about Force India and the possible name change, From what Otmar said that it does make it complicating for the team to have a country in its name. At the inception of this team it was named Force India, keeping in mind a potential Indian GP and to attract Indian companies/corporate sponsors aboard. However, with the GP gone and sponsors in India losing interest in F1, it makes more sense to have a name with wider marketability without a countries name restricting its reach. Therefore what we understand is that the team will be taking till the end of the year to decide on a name that can remain unchanged for a further 10 years. From where I see it, given Vijay Mallya’s condition and that fact they might be up for sale, a new name will be a result of a new buyer coming board and not before. If they want a name change that would be the right time to do it, which is when they sell of the team, IF the talk about them wanting to sell is accurate.We also hear the proposed name might be ‘Force One’ as thats is one of the names that is up for registration, according to a report by motorsport.com. Nevertheless one can only way to hear what it finally becomes.
The incident unfolded with a 10-second stop and go penalty that cost Sebastian Vettel his chances of chasing a podium. However that was not enough for Lewis Hamilton since he had to pit to fix a lose head rest. Despite the penalty Sebastian emerged ahead of Lewis, leaving him still in lead of the championship. What happened in the race has been viewed a multiple times by now, and yes it was a silly move by Sebastian. But many like Martin Brundle, Mark Hughes, Kevin Eason, to Jenson Button have come out saying the equivalent of he was penalised, race is over, lets move on. However a certain parts of the British media and fans feel Vettel should have been black flagged or should get a one race ban. Well honestly, there have been worse incidents in previous years, last year for instance the penalties were too inconsistent and nobody created a furore. When Max Verstappen (one out of the many) pulled a dangerous move over Kimi Raikkonen, there was never such a huge outrage. The best is they are all singing Hamilton’s song of ‘bad example’ for young drivers and kids. Where were these examples last season, least of all junior drivers have been moe demotivated by the path to F1 taken by Max or Lance Stroll then by mere incidents like these. Its strange how Lewis hates the media on one day and can use them to his advantage on the other. Both are exceptional drivers, I personally feel the matter is over and we all move on. And for all you know there have been phone calls now between them and they kiss and makeup by the next race after drivers briefing, and the media roar is worthless.